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Niqabs: The Only Face Mask Banned During Covid-19

The irony of the Swiss Niqab ban is that it comes as the vast majority of the world is stressing the importance of face coverings

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Today, International Women’s Day is being observed globally with the aim to celebrate the contribution and achievements of women. The annual observance allows women from across the world regardless of their background to highlight the injustices they face. For instance, the fight for equal pay, the right to education, freedom of choice and protection from domestic violence, femicide, and so on. Yet as the call for gender equality and freedom for women is made around the globe, the Swiss government will be working towards implementing a constitutional change that directly opposes these values by introducing a Burqa ban. 

In a public referendum held on Sunday, Switzerland voted for the ban on facial covering also referred to as the burqa ban by a narrowing margin of 51.2 per cent. This is not the same as introducing a new legislation as was the case in 2009 with the ban on minarets. Instead, this will be ratified as an amendment to the constitution. Ironically, the results of the referendum were announced by the law minister whilst wearing a face mask. The Swiss government did not support the far-right political party’s proposal which called for ban on “full facial coverings.” While the proposal itself did not mention the terms burqa or niqab, local politicians, campaigners and media referred to it as the “burqa ban”. Furthermore, campaign posters publicised around Swiss cities by the Swiss People’s Party showed a woman covered in black face veil with captions stating: “Stop extremism!” and “Stop radical Islam!”

Muslims make up 5% of the Swiss population of 8.6 million. According to estimates by the University of Lucerne, only 30 women wear face veil in Switzerland practically disclosing that no one in Switzerland wears a Burqa – a full body veil including the face. For Muslim women in Switzerland, this is the cause of disappointment and distress because the law will create more division in the Swiss society masked by a non-existent issue. 

One Muslim woman from Switzerland stated that she feels “disappointed as a citizen of [the] country not because of the prohibition, but more because of what it stands for. It is a small group of people who basically decided to spend so much energy and money to run a campaign, which in the end might directly impact 30 women in the whole country… [the law] is simply spreading hate.” 

Iram Khalil, another member of the Muslim Community in Switzerland, stressed that: 

“Many who voted ‘yes’ are not even aware of what this law means for Muslim women; it does not liberate them; it only restricts them even more…it is not fair to write a law on women’s clothing. I grew up in Switzerland and had to justify myself… because of my clothes and the headscarf, but I still experienced Switzerland as open, liberal and accepting, respectful.”

The burqa and the Islamic face veil, also known as the niqab, has been a centre of intense debate across the West, especially Europe, for many years. Following this vote with the majority in favour of the ban, Switzerland joins France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Bulgaria in the list of countries which have imposed partial or full burqa and face veil bans. In recent years, the wave of terrorism in Europe pursued in the name of Islam has created a sense of fear among European countries that Islam is a threat to their values and democratic principles. Despite Muslim communities coming forward and condemning all acts of terrorism, this fear has only seen prominence, resulting in the niqab being associated with terror and danger. Khaula Smart, member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association Switzerland reflected on the role of Muslims in erasing commonly held misconceptions about Islam: 

“[This] is a stark reminder of how much work we have to do, to educate the world on the true teachings of Islam. The niqab and burqa are considered to be symbols of radical Islam and female oppression. A stereotype propagated by the media. Islam is a religion of peace; its teachings lift the status of women and defend her rights in the modern world. However, all Muslim communities and nations must now draw particular attention to understanding these rights and equally demonstrating them. It is the only way to dispel the common myths associated with Islam.”

While claiming that these bans are to ensure the safety of their people, European states have failed to guarantee the protection of Muslim communities, specifically women, from Islamophobia and bigotry. Commenting on what this means for Muslim women, especially ahead of International Women’s Day, Jasia Bokhari states:

“The ‘yes’ vote risks trivialising the racist atmosphere towards Muslim Women. It is to further stigmatise and marginalise Muslim women. [The law] is another example of telling women what they can and cannot wear. Switzerland ranks 26 out of 29 in [the] glass ceiling index and has clear problems of gender equality and discrimination. So, this ban seems ridiculous just ahead of women’s day celebrated on 8th March.” 

These expressions of dissatisfaction and concern among Muslim women in Switzerland are a reminder for society, governments and world leaders to not marginalise and isolate minorities. The world today is celebrating the voices and achievements of women while also pledging to continue the struggle of freedom and gender equality. However, in Switzerland and other European countries with similar laws, this will contrast to the Muslim women who have once again become subjects to religious discrimination because of their choice to practice their religion.  

Elected representatives of the people have a duty to protect, preserve and guarantee basic human rights and choices rather than restricting them. Governments may claim that their policies are not meant to exclude any specific group or community but one glance at history and this claim falls vulnerable. When the Nazis clamped down on the Jewish Community in Germany in the 1930s, it was not rapid and random. It was systematic and gradual. It started with the Jewish Community’s exclusion from social and economic life and then was so subtly incorporated within the society that the majority of Germans became indifferent to the persecution of the Jews. Of course, things are not that extreme and radical in Switzerland, or any other European country for that matter. But if history can teach any lesson, it is that politics based on hostility towards any minority group or their marginalisation in society can easily lead the general population to become indifferent and unknowingly divisive. The narrow majority of the referendum result in Switzerland is the prime example. 

The irony of this debacle of course is that this unjust vilification of the Muslim niqab comes as the vast majority of the world sits through a global pandemic – forcefully advocating the importance of covering one’s face in public. It is indeed remarkable that at a time where society pines for cohesion and understanding, arbitrary scapegoating and the alienating of the ‘other’ seems to be of utmost priority in Switzerland.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Ayesha Naseem
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Historian of Modern World History, with special interest in history of modern Europe and Britain. I also have a keen interest in politics, systems of rule, international relations and current affairs.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Daniyah Y

    8 March 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Very important issue raised! There seems to be a lot of double standard in today’s society.

  2. Sultana Bhatti

    8 March 2021 at 7:58 pm

    European progress: Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by ensuring women’s rights are protected by ensuring a certain type of woman is not allowed to exercise her right to wear a piece of fabric !

  3. Alliya Oppliger

    9 March 2021 at 9:00 am

    Well written! Instead of talking to Muslims, it’s easier to talk about them. The sad truth of our society.

  4. Bil-kist H

    9 March 2021 at 11:12 am

    Greetings of peace
    À shame indeed but I think it is aiming at future arrivals and tourists as well. A policy of exclusion. They plan and Allah plans and who is the best of planners?

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Politics

Anthony Albanese: Australia’s Newly elected Prime Minster

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International Transport for Aus via flickr.com

Anthony Albanese is officially Australia’s 31st Prime Minister after a swearing in ceremony in Canberra ahead of a crucial international dialogue with the US, India and Japan.

Australia’s prime minister-elect, Anthony Albanese, looks increasingly likely to form a majority government, with the party inching ahead in 78 seats across the country, as the Liberal party (Ex-Prime Minister Scott Morrison political Party) descends into turmoil following Saturday’s election (Election was conducted on 21stmay 2022) rout.

As counting continued on Sunday, Labor (Winning Political party)  leader Albanese took part in briefings with senior public sector officials to prepare him for Tuesday’s meeting of the quadrilateral security dialogue in Tokyo, which he will attend with the incoming foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong.

Albanese is expected to have one-on-one meetings with the US president, Joe Biden, Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the official Quad summit before returning to Australia on Wednesday.

Inside the lavish Government House the five ministers awaited Governor-General David Hurley and Linda Hurley before they and gathered guests sang the national anthem.

The Prime Minister was joined by his partner Jodi Haydon and son Nathan Albanese as he became only the fourth Labor leader to win government from opposition since World War Two.

The entire ministry has been divided among the five senior members, with the remaining frontbench to be sworn in once Mr Albanese returns from Tokyo.

Visiting a cafe in his home suburb of Marrickville on Sunday, Albanese said the result was a “really big moment” in his life, and he wanted it to be a seminal moment for the country.

He has flagged that on his return he will convene his first meeting of the national cabinet with all the state and territory leaders, which is now overwhelmingly comprised of Labor leaders.

With a national two-party swing towards the party of almost 4%, counting on Sunday showed that Labor was on track to increase its gains across metropolitan Australia, ahead in Bennelong in New South Wales and Deakin in Melbourne, and within striking distance of picking up the formerly safe Adelaide seat of Sturt, the seat of Moore in Perth’s north, and Menzies in Melbourne’s north-east.

If Labor is successful in winning these seats, the Liberal party will hold no ground in Adelaide or Perth, and only Alan Tudge’s seat of Aston across greater Melbourne after it lost the seats of Higgins and Chisholm to Labor, and Kooyong and Goldstein to teal independents.

Labor has also clawed back ground in the NSW south coast seat of Gilmore which has seen a swing towards former NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, and was ahead in the Tasmanian seat of Lyons.

As shellshocked Liberals were coming to terms with the electoral loss, which has seen them lose more than 15 seats to Labor, the Greens and teal independents, MPs were preparing for a change in leadership to the former defence minister Peter Dutton.

The final result has been projected as 77 for Labor, 59 for the coalition and 15 on the crossbench.

Outgoing deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said his future as Nationals leader was in the hands of his party room colleagues.

Independent candidates elected on Saturday will be pushing the government to deliver on three issues: a more ambitious climate policy, a national integrity commission and women’s equality.

Monique Ryan, who is on track to seize the seat of Kooyong from outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, said voters had responded to a coalition government shifting “too far to the right”.

Moderate Liberal and outgoing minister Simon Birmingham said the party needed to step up its 2030 emissions target and do more to preselect women in safe seats.

The Greens, having secured a record primary vote, are on track to hold 12 Senate seats in the new parliament and up to five lower house seats.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Biden signs $40B support package for Ukraine while overseas

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Four months into the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Biden has signed a support package of $40B to help in Ukraine. 

The breakdown of the package would be $20B in military assistance, $8B in general economic support, $5B to address global food shortages and more than $1 billion to help refugees. 

The bill was passed in the Congress by support of both parties and as the president of the United States of America is visiting Asia right now, a copy of the bill was flown to him by a U.S. official traveling on a commercial flight to Seoul for his signature. 

These unusual circumstances display the urgency of the matter and while helping Ukraine is a noble thing to do but, as the author Kenneth Eade has pointed out “War is the most profitable business on earth.” 

We wonder about the prioritization of the breakdown. Half of the support package is intended for lethal weapons. Which also means more damage, more innocent lives that will be lost a longer uncertainty for our future.

As noble as this gesture of supporting the Ukraine is, who is benefitting from this deal? Or is it just a means to prolong the war? Where do their priorities lie with the fight against Russia or the support of Ukraine? 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Hungary Announces State of Emergency Due to War in Ukraine

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  • Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has officially declared a new state of emergency for Hungary in a Facebook video that was posted on Tuesday. Orban stated that the war in Ukraine poses “a constant threat to Hungary” and that the state of emergency would allow the Hungarian government to respond more efficiently to difficulties that arise due to the war.
  • The state of emergency will allow the Hungarian government to pass laws without the involvement of the Parliament and will offer them the opportunity to temporarily digress from existing laws. This is the third state of emergency that Orban has passed while in office. Previously, Hungary dealt with a state of emergency due to the European refugee crisis as well as one declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Emese Pasztor of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union criticizes Orban and his government stating that another introduction of a special legal order “will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of the Parliament.”
  • A few have criticized the introduction of another special legal order stating that it makes Orban’s government too powerful considering that his party, the Fidesz party, already holds a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. Orban has stated in the Facebook video that the first measures will be announced on Wednesday. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Samar Idlibi
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Samar is a UC San Diego graduate with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business. In addition to her passion for research and writing in relation to current events, she also utilizes her skills in areas such as digital marketing. Furthermore, she is deeply interested in positions that involve oral communication skills such as leadership roles and public speaking.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russian Soldier Gets Life in Prison

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21 year old Vadim Shishimarin was the first guilty verdict in the first war crime trial within Ukraine following Russia’s invasion earlier this year. Shishimarin was convicted of killing a 62 year old unarmed Ukrainian civilian on February 28th of this year. The court officially stated that Shishimarin “saw a civilian on the pavement, Oleksandr Shelipov…knowing that Shelipov is a civilian and is unarmed and does not pose any threat to him — fired several shots at Shelipov from his AK-gun.”  

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the three-panel court for firing at Shelipov, but claimed he did not do so with intention to kill him, a point his lawyer argues should invalidate Shishimarin for being accused of murder. He apologized for killing the civilian, stating he was “nervous the moment it happened,” and claiming, “I didn’t want to kill. But it happened and I do not deny it.” The court has sentenced Shisimarin to the maximum sentence of life in prison, which Shisimarin and his attorney plan to appeal. Judge Serhiy Agafonof stated that regardless of intent, his actions violated international laws of war  “provided by the Geneva convention.” 

Dmirtry Peskov, Spokesperson to the Russian President stated his concerns regarding the verdict, calling it “unacceptable,” “staged,” and “outrageous.” He stated the Kremlin’s hope to intervene within this case to assist Shishimarin. 

The Ukrainian report states that over 10,000 other war crimes involving 600 suspects are to be investigated. Shishimarin’s case paves the way for future trials, while also giving insights into how Ukrainian judges will be conducting these trials. The case also sends a message to Russian soldiers still occupying Ukraine, giving them reason to reconsider their position and actions. 

It remains to be seen if Russia would enact a similar law to America that bypasses accountability for war crimes. In 2002, former US President George Bush passed the Hague Invasion act, limiting Americans from being held accountable for war crimes. Wars in the past, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria have totaled over half a million civilian deaths as a result of ongoing conflict by a foreign invasion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russian Diplomat Resigns Due to “Witless” War, Condemns Russia

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After 20 years of service, Russian Diplomat Boris Bondarev has resigned over the war incurred by Russia in Ukraine through a letter posted on social media. Bondarev has called Russia “witless” for its invasion within the Eastern European country. He stated that “Those who conceived of this war want only one thing – to stay in power forever…To achieve that, they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.”

“Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy,” he went on to write. “It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country. Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy…When you see that your country is doing the worst things and being a civil servant you’re somehow related to that, it’s your decision just to terminate your connection with the government. We all must be responsible. And I don’t want to have any responsibility for what I don’t approve of.”

Bondarev stated his decision to quit was made in February, but took him two months to find the resolve to publicly announce his resignation. Bondarev is the first to make his resignation public, praised by the UN watch. Moscow has yet to respond to his departure. However, Russian news agency Kommersant did report on this, stating they also knew the names of other diplomats who have resigned following the invasion but have not announced it. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Starbucks Leaves Russia After 15 Years

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  • Starbucks is leaving Russia and closing its 130 locations after fifteen years of operating there. McDonalds, Exxon Mobil and other companies made similar moves in recent weeks.
  • Starbucks will pay its estimated 2,000 employees for the next six months, while also helping them find new jobs. The company has not disclosed the financial impact of these actions.
  • The decision to leave Russia was made in March, with the CEO at the time, Kevin Johnson, stating that the company condems “the horrific attacks on Ukraine by Russia and our hearts go out to all those affected.”
  • The US placed many economic sanctions on Russia after they invaded Ukraine, some of which make it more difficult for western companies to operate there.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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